telehealth meaning

What is Telehealth, and How is it Impacting the Future of Healthcare?

We are facing unprecedented times. Amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, regions worldwide are in lockdown. States are enacting “shelter-in-place” policies and travel bans. Non-essential businesses are closing worldwide, and employees are being encouraged to work from home when they can.

For healthcare workers, however, the picture is a bit different. Healthcare professionals — such as nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, x-ray and lab technicians — continue to be on the frontline of patient care. These professionals are working hard to keep coronavirus patients stable, to diagnose the illness, and to protect other patients from the virus’ spread.

Of course, there are many other healthcare workers who are not working in Emergency Departments or hospitals. Think private practice nurses and physicians, dentists and dental hygienists, medical billers and coders, medical researchers, and more. Many of these roles are considered essential, but have much more flexibility when it comes to meeting with patients. If it’s not an emergency, many of these professionals are now able to take their services online. This is because of telehealth.

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth is the use of digital information and communication technologies to support remote medical care. It enables practitioners to speak with or monitor patients in real-time, and deliver clinical services through technologies like video conferencing. At the same time, telehealth allows patients to stay home and stay safe, while still receiving the care they need and deserve. In times like these, this is more important than ever.

Telehealth is not only used for direct clinical care. It is also used to transmit information between patients and their care facilities. For example, remote patient monitoring tools are often used for those at-home with chronic illnesses like diabetes — these tools continuously collect and transmit patient data to care providers, keeping them up-to-date on patient conditions.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) defines telehealth as “the use of telecommunications technologies to deliver health-related services and information that support patient care, administrative activities, and health education.”

Telehealth in Action

Telehealth comes in many different forms. These include:

  • Telemedicine – Also known as virtual health, this involves a direct line of communication (such as a video chat or phone call) between a patient and care provider.
  • Telemonitoring – Often called remote patient monitoring, telemonitoring involves using technology to observe and manage patients at a distance.
  • Telehealth nursing – This subsector of telehealth allows nurses to deliver care and interact with patients remotely, whether that is through virtual appointments or monitoring tools.
  • Teletherapy – Teletherapy involves direct interactions between a patient and a mental health counselor, social worker, or psychiatrist.
  • Patient Portals – These are online portals where patients can log-in and access health records, schedule appointments, and live chat with nursing professionals.

Now, let’s assess a couple modern day examples. Amid the current pandemic, it is more difficult for people to schedule regular check-ups or doctor’s visits. Many practices are open only for emergencies, to protect the safety of their staff. However, many practitioners are offering telemedicine or virtual appointments, allowing patients to continue to shelter-in-place and receive the medical care they need.

For example, if you are not having emergency but would like to meet with a provider (for example, to get a prescription), you may be able to do so online. This is especially helpful for older adults (65+) and others who are at increased risk for coronavirus.

In addition, many hospitals are also leveraging telehealth in some way. Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, for example, is offering a COVID-19 Hotline for anyone experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus. One can call to speak with a trained nursing professional, describe what they are experiencing, and get medical advice on what they should do next.

The Future of Telehealth and What it Means for Healthcare Professionals

Telehealth is on the rise, now more than ever. It is no wonder why. Telehealth has benefits for both patients and healthcare providers. For patients, it makes healthcare more accessible – especially as more insurance companies are covering telehealth services. This, in turn, is increasing access to healthcare, and therefore increasing demand for qualified healthcare professionals.

In addition to increased demand for healthcare services, telehealth is also contributing to increased productivity within healthcare organizations. Virtual care appointments means minimal turnover time between patients, allowing nurses and doctors to spend more time with patients who have complex needs. They can better serve patients as a result, as well as serve patients outside of normal hours.

So what does this all mean for you, as an aspiring healthcare professional? If you are interested in becoming a registered nurse, doctor, medical technician, or other care provider, telehealth means you will be better able to serve patients, both in-person and online. In addition, the rise of telehealth will be increasing the demand for telehealth workers. With telehealth technology now in place and so accessible, more and more patients who desire convenience will be demanding telehealth services – even after the COVID-19 pandemic slows down.

According to a 2018 Business Insider survey, almost 60% of consumers said they would use telehealth for remote, general consultations if given the option. Imagine that number now, in 2020.

As a result, to qualify for a healthcare career today, you must well-versed in the latest technologies, while still upholding desired skills like compassion, organization, and clinical care. Those interested in other healthcare support jobs, such as medical billers and coders, or nurse researchers, must also be well-versed in using industry software, as many of these roles are now being done completely online.

Getting Started

If you are interested in a healthcare or telehealth career, you can start at Goodwin University right now. You can apply online, or explore our program offerings. Goodwin University offers a range of online coursework for aspiring healthcare and health support workers — especially now, during the Coronavirus 2019 outbreak.

To learn more about our healthcare degree programs, please do not hesitate to call 800-889-3282 or visit us online to request more information.